Walnut Brewery

A fine middle-brow entrant in a CraftWorks Restaurants line-up that also features Old Chicago (low-brow) and the Chop House (high-brow), the Walnut Brewery steps up to bat on hundreds of design elements and hits a solid base hit each time. Dark wood decor, comfortably deep booths, and a kind of aimless and vaguely yuppie clientele constantly wondering whether this is the kind of place they can get really smashed in. Of course, the ambiguity is not the Walnut’s fault, it is endemic to the “brew pub” genre, a category of restaurant perilously caught between the down home comfort of an Irish pub and the faux elegance of a steakhouse. But the brew pub has held on stirringly in Colorado, whose generally tolerant citizens find well-accomplished hybrid environments more than allowable, and we are the luckier for it. With its relaxed atmosphere, its diverse menu, and generally competent staff, the Brewery easily outpaces more pretentious places like its now-cousin Gordon Biersch, whose high prices and overextended cuisine are not needed here. The beer is uniformly excellent.